January 14, 2020


Trump Admin Walks Back Anti-MEK Memo (Betsy Swan, Erin Banco, Asawin Suebsaeng. Jan. 13, 2020, Daily Beast)

At whiplash speed, the State Department is walking back an order barring American diplomats from meeting with controversial Iranian dissident groups--including one close with Trump World allies and previously designated as a terror group, the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK). The initial memo, greenlit by a career State Department employee, angered Congressional Iran hawks. And the Department's move to change its guidance has drawn cheers from them. 

This is who the Right thinks should replace the Shi'a, Who is the Iranian group targeted by bombers and beloved of Trump allies? (Saeed Kamali Dehghan,  2 Jul 2018, The Guardian)

Believed to have between 5,000 to 13,000 members, the MeK was established in the 1960s to express a mixture of Marxism and Islamism. It launched bombing campaigns against the Shah, continuing after the 1979 Islamic revolution, against the Islamic Republic. In 1981, in a series of attacks, it killed 74 senior officials, including 27 MPs. Later that year, its bombings killed Iran's president and prime minister.

During the eight-year Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, the MeK, by then sheltered in camps in Iraq, fought against Iran alongside the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. The US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a turning point for the group, which sought to reinvent itself as a democratic force.

Today, it functions as a fringe exiled group with characteristics of a cult that works for regime change in Iran, though it has little visible support inside the country. It portrays itself as a democratic political institution although its own internal structure is anything but.

Eli Clifton, a fellow at the Nation Institute, said the MeK's influence in the US is multilayered. "When [MeK] members go and swarm Capitol Hill and seek meetings with the members of Congress," Clifton said, "they're very often the only voices that are heard, because there is simply not a lot of Iranian-American presence on Capitol Hill."

Clifton said the MeK, which operates under a set of front groups, writes very large cheques to those speaking at their events. Estimates are in the range of $30,000 to $50,000 per speech. Bolton is estimated to have received upwards of $180,000 to speak at multiple events for MeK. His recent financial disclosure shows that he was paid $40,000 for one speech at an MeK event last year.

Jason Rezaian, the Iranian-American Washington Post journalist who was jailed in Tehran for more than a year, wrote in March that in the seven years he lived in the country, he saw a great deal of criticism towards the ayatollahs but "never met a person who thought the MeK should, or could, present a viable alternative".

Clifton said the MeK "shares many qualities of a cult". That description was echoed by Iraj Mesdaghi, a Sweden-based Iranian activist who was jailed in Iran from 1981 to 1991 for his links to the MeK. Mesdaghi left Iran in 1994 and worked for the MeK in its headquarters in Auvers-sur-Oise, France, until 2001.

"In the MeK, everything has to morph into leadership, and leadership means Masoud Rajavi [Maryam Rajavi's husband, missing since 2003]. Not only your heart belongs to him, any love belongs to him, it's forbidden to have love for spouse, mother, children," he said.

He compared working for the MeK to holding an electric wire. "You have to follow the path, you have to transfer what you're given, you're not meant to add or reduce anything, you can't pose any ifs."

A 2007 state department report included claims that MeK has forced members to divorce. Human Rights Watch, in a 28-page report, has shed light on the MeK's mistreatment of its members, including claims that those wishing to leave the group have been subjected to "lengthy solitary confinements, severe beatings, and torture".

Posted by at January 14, 2020 12:00 AM